Chapter 22: The island
The night was heavy and still, sitting on the path between the cliffs and the cabin, making it almost impossible to move. He moved slowly, sliding his feet in front of him tentatively, trying to feel his way past obstacles and pitfalls. There was no moonlight and no starlight. He found it difficult to breathe, the air was so solidly black. Not even time could move through this thick night. He wanted to sit down on the path, maybe even to lie down. He remembered there was a soft green moss growing on either side of the path between the cabin and the cliffs, but he was afraid that he would never get up again on this side of life. He saw a point of light flitting here and there across the heavy night. It seemed to flutter, coming nearer and moving away suddenly, capriciously. He reached out to it but it moved just out of his reach, leaving a sad music in its wake. The music made him nostalgic for a time in his life that was never his. He knew this but at the same time his heart welled up. By now he had lost what little sense of orientation he had managed to hang onto. He stood up shakily on his two legs, or was he already standing? He started to follow the fluttering light thing with his arms out in front of him, having no idea, nor did he care, whether he was moving toward the cabin or toward the cliffs. This fluttering light thing, leaving a trail of sad music, was the only path left to him through this forlorn night. He began to run headlong knowing he did not have much longer. He tripped over a large flat stone and fell against the heavy door of the cabin, budging it open so that a wedge of yellow light chopped into the thick night.
Chapter 23: The Barrier
The meme shot through a long tunnel scarcely wider than itself. The white walls of the tunnel seemed close enough for Exim to reach out and touch them. He thought the ship would crash against the wall at any moment and burst into flames, but the meme sailed out of the tunnel into a bejeweled night sky and a gargantuan grey world loomed before his eyes. His body pressed all the way forward as the ship decelerated and nosed downward. A filthy grey cumulus rushed toward the ship and he covered his eyes again, flinching against the anticipated impact. The ship rocked back and forth, up and down, and fell like a heavy rock down an elevator shaft. Slowly the meme leveled its attitude and eased its trajectory over the rolling grey hills and valleys. It made Exim dizzy to look at the undulating hills and valleys. He dry heaved his empty stomach. There were complex structures of pulsing lights spread over much of the surface, but some areas were dark as night. The meme banked slowly down between two parallel ranges of rolling hills cruising past bridges of pulsing light that seemed to reach from one horizon to another. The ship dropped lower than the tops of the long tenuous bridges and other strange structures whose functions he would be hard pressed to guess, and then there was a tremendous jolt as the ship hit the ground sliding forward until it finally slowed to a stop. He looked up at the impossibly tall bridges and the globules of light pulsing on the ground. Everything around him was silent and still. Then the ground seemed to swell and recede. Exim had the distinct feeling that the ground was…